Your Practice’s Capture Rate
By Arthur De Gennaro
Of all the statistics that a dispensing ophthalmology practice generates, the most
important is its capture rate. The capture rate reflects the overall effectiveness of a practice,
viewed from the dispensary’s point of view. It indicates how effective
the practice is at identifying how its patients’ daily activities affect their eyewear needs.
the dispensing ophthalmologist and optometrists are at preparing patients for their
dispensary visit by recommending appropriate eyewear to them.
the practice is at escorting or directing patients to the dispensary.
the opticians are at making structured sales presentations that convince patients to
acquire the recommended eyewear.
The capture rate of a practice is its most important statistic for one additional reason.
Optical dispensaries are heavily unit driven—that is, a small increase in the number of
pairs of eyeglasses sold in a day makes a large impact on sales and profits.
Let’s assume that a solo dispensing ophthalmology practice has an average unit complete-
pair sale of $300 and that it sells four complete pairs of eyeglasses a day. If the practice and
the dispensary are open 250 days a year (5 days a week x 50 weeks a year), the dispensary
will have revenues of $300,000. If the dispensary were to sell just one additional complete
pair of eyeglasses per day, however, the dispensary’s revenue would rise to $375,000; an
increase of 25%.
So, what should your dispensing ophthalmology practice’s capture rate be? For
comprehensive ophthalmologists the benchmark is 60%, while for optometrists it is 85%.
In both cases the question begs, 60% and 85% of what? The current benchmarks are
expressed as a percentage of patients refracted who receive changes to their prescriptions.
That method of calculating the capture rate statistic can lead to erroneous results. Those
errant results stem from a lack of understanding of what the capture rate statistic is
intended to tell the practice managers.
Managers are asked to organize the resources given to them and to maximize the return
on those resources to the benefit of the business’ owners. In a dispensing ophthalmology
practice, the set of patients who were refracted is the “resource.” That is one reason why I
believe the capture rate should be expressed as a function of all refracted patients.
Let’s say that a dispensing ophthalmologist in solo practice refracts 100 patients per week.
Let’s say also that 30 of the refracted patients need a prescription change. Finally, let’s
assume that 30 of the practice’s patients purchase eyeglasses in the practice’s dispensary
that week. Many industry experts would say that the practice had a 100% capture rate (30
changes vs. 30 captures) for the week. I respectfully disagree because measuring the
capture rate that way can produce a rate exceeding 100%, a clear impossibility. Instead, the
entire week’s refracted patient pool of 100 should be counted because a sizable number of
the 70 patients who did not need a prescription change should have, and likely would
have, purchased new eyeglasses if they had simply been asked to consider doing so. Those
purchases would have been eyewear to help patients pursue their visual lifestyles more
effectively—spare pairs, sunglasses, computer glasses, and occupational progressive lenses.
Calculated in the way I propose, the example practice’s capture rate would be only 30%
(100 refractions vs. 30 captures). That’s a more realistic view of dispensary performance.
Ways to fight back
If the capture rate statistic is to be a useful tool, it should be calculated not to artificially
make the rate look high, but to help the practice maximize its return on the resource
Strategies and tactics to help increase your captures:
Introduce a visual lifestyle questionnaire. Taking a history of a patient’s visual lifestyle
needs at intake helps both the patient and doctor focus on this important aspect of the
Make recommendations to patients during the examinations. Patients report that they
want to hear about eyewear options from the doctor. Give your patients what they ask
for. Make specific eyewear recommendations that can enhance their lifestyles.
Escort patients to the dispensary. As inconvenient as that may sound, it is the most
effective way to assure that patients will at least visit your dispensary. Any other method
will diminish results.
Train your opticians how to sell. Incredibly, most opticians have never been formally
trained in sales. This lack of understanding of how a retail sale is to be conducted results
in poor sales performance and dissatisfied customers. Sales training could generate the
greatest single return on a dispensary investment this year.
Measure performance regularly. Keeping in mind the adage, “people respect what you
inspect, not what you expect,” measure the performance of your dispensary at least
weekly and coach or praise appropriately.